Monday, January 31, 2011

Office of the President suggests isolation of HIV Positive Kenyans

Thickening stigma, Hon. Mathenge says:“Isolate HIV infected people!”

Madam Minister, have you forgotten this?


“Angel died last Saturday. She was 18. I was her doctor since she was four.Technically, Angel died of an AIDS-related illness. The truth is, Angel died from the stigma related to HIV.Angel contracted the disease at birth from her mother. With today’s medicine, she could have lived a long, productive life.But many people, including her family members, made her feel dirty because of HIV. She felt rejected.In shame, she refused to take her medication. Consequently, her HIV progressed to AIDS. The untreated AIDS led to her death.”

It is a cause of deep concern that the minister for Special Programs, ( Office of the President) in Kenya today, 31st. January 2011, has displayed little understanding of her work by calling for the isolation of HIV/Aids infected people. But Esther Murugi Mathenge is on facebook and is an educated woman. What is afoot here? Hear us:

“Minister Mathenge, stigma kills people and spreads HIV/Aids.” Yours is a sensitive docket which depends on the Office of the President of Kenya. We need to know how policy may be affected by what the minister has said to Kenyans.”

The minister needs to know that there is much hunger in Kenya and elsewhere in the world for people to be accepted as who they are. Women, children, sick, old, young or of whatever ethnic origin need people who believe in all of them as human beings. Have you forgotten that there are many who are killed for being albino for example?

The minister needs to know that this is a crass and thoughtless statement in a country where people are trying to hard to deal with this pandemic. Nothing about HIV/Aids should be taken lightly. Ministers and all leaders have a grave duty to talk more about HIV/Aids but constructively. They should also test and let the public know their status.

She has destroyed the work of many years with her statement. This kind of talk was last heard from president Moi. Building the HIV stigma decreases the work of prevention and treatment of HIV. It makes people fear testing. The minister should be ecouraging people to reflect on their sexual behaviour with regard to HIV/Aids and not trying to behave like Adolf Hitler.

Stigma and discrimination are the main obstacles to HIV/Aids prevention and care. .

The anti stigma initiative urges that HIV positive people be supported. Others in the world “seek to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination to protect the human and social assets of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS through funding and researching promising approaches that can be readily applied by other national and community organizations.”

Kenya has made an amazing effort to tackle HIV over the years. In the 80s and 90s, or since the HIV virus was identified, Kenyan doctors and journalists boldly gave information on the disease. The late Achola Ndinya was among doctors who worked with IAVI and later KAVI along with to find a cure for HIV Aids. It was they who mapped and identified some women in the slums who although exposed to the virus and often, were not succumbing to infection.

Where has Esther Murugi the Special Programmes minster been for so long, that she fails to remember all the discussions that have happened regarding stigma that she should suddenly call for the locking up of HIV infected people? Does she not at least remember Assunta Wagura’s diary? Esther Murugi, the former Gender Minister worries me because she is a graduate of my Alma mater. Does power make us this blind? Is it possible that Esther all this time has not understood that we are all either infected or affected by HIV?

The Special Programs has made a terrible statement which some have termed as the most retrogressive statement of the times. Before her, only Moi. Hon. Mathenge should not only apologize in all channels of information in Kenya -and to Kenyans on facebook and all people- but also speak for hours on HIV Aids and those infected the care and love that they need.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(Violence and peace) BBC TV- The Doha Debate on Free Expression

It is disturbing that we are fighting about beliefs more and more in today's world. The history of violence is as long as human history it seems. There are different types of violence and always one type or the other is at work. The history of peace, however, seems to be what most human beings seek and love. There is so much conviction that peace is and was before and should be in the future that the engagement of those who love peace has most impressed the world.

It is possible to understand and even forgive humans who fought over food or who fight over food because they might die in the next few days unless they eat. All living things fight to live, but the fight does not have to be bloodshed and the taking of lives even at this level. Reason must lead. It is not possible to understand why violence is more about what one believes and knows and wishes to express. Today we fight those who are passionate about ideas, those who speak against what some embrace in their faiths. This makes little sense. It is disappointing that this is what engages todays world so much. We have very urgent problems to deal with in the world. We have many humans who will follow reason, speak and write but in may countries, they are endangered.

Looking at the levels of intolerance we are experiencing today, especially because of lack of understanding with regard, for example with religions, intolerance in political views, one is inclined to feel that what we are fighting about has changed very much along the years. Human beings have often conceived God as someone on whose behalf they have to fight. This is a huge misconception as God is not powerless. Some will argue that today's tensions, bloodsheds are still based on material resources.. yet it is more clear that this is happening only in some lands. Some will argue that people can sit, eat or be fed... and get some education without being free to express themselves.

Last month's Doha Debate on BBC TV was very interesting. The house believes that education without free expression is useless. What was interesting was to see how close the vote was. 53% for the motion 47% against. The proposers won.

There are many people who are serious in their work, who are enlightened and learned and who do not see the contradiction of the fact that a world which lives more and more in the world of ideas... with so many ways for exchanging views is yet to be convinced that freedom of expression is a fundamental if not basic- as in food and oxygen- need. How is it possible not to see free expression as the greatest contributor to peace?

I think we misunderstand peace. Peace is often seen as something big out there that is sitting and waiting to be taken. Peace is not without us today working more and more on the mental barriers that keep us from opening up and embracing thoughts that we might not be familiar with.

I want to see the day that no one will use religion or a different point of view to kill. This might become the only proof that we ever got educated.

Roses for Taseer

I saw them roses of the world
They bloomed and grew in many colors
White, black, pink and not only red.
Roses bloomed in the world,
the whole world.
No one threw them.
They turned in an instant
and became roses for Taseer.
Roses for voice.
Roses for Taseer.
Roses. Roses. Roses.
Roses for Taseer.
Roses, Roses for Taseer.
They rose in all colours.

All red strewn petals fade.